The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Biodynamic gardening update. One year on.


Danny's Potatoes and beyond Brussels srouts in a cage 2009

Danny's Potatoes and beyond Brussels srouts in a cage 2009

I’m continuing to practice biodynamic principles this year. Last year, when I followed the planting and harvesting days religiously, I had great results. Good strong plants, more disease resistance and better harvests. With the exception of battling with cabbage white fly that nearly decimated the Sutherland kale*. I tried to save our crop but in the end just threw it out. Didn’t want to ingest the horrid infestation. Too small to be considered added protein.

Last autumn I armed myself with yards of insect netting – bought in the sales. The cabbage white caterpillars are a pain but the teeny tiny mothlike cabbage white fly are worse.

This year I’m delving deeper and boning up on biodynamic natural decoctions – or home made sprays to control insects, prevent fungal diseases and feed the plants. These use plants that are commonly found in gardens or hedgerows such as comfey, horsetail, nettles, pyrethrum, camomile, marigold and dandelion.

Now I’m actively raising comfrey and pyrethrum, have bought dried horsetail and the rest are growing in the garden already. All can be used as fertilisers and many, in a different dilution, can be used as insecticides and anti fungal spray. More detailed information to follow in a separate post if you are interested.

I now understand that these sprays are used more as a preventative rather than a cure – when it comes to fungal disease and insect infestation. Last year clearly I was just flirting with biodynamic principles* as I didn’t twig this before the cabbage white fly struck. Of course healthy plants are less susceptible to disease!  This year I do hope that with more knowledge that I’ll have better luck and not have to use the insect netting. Danny has offered to wear it as a sarong at our First Cottage Smallholder Forum Get Together if it isn’t used. Hmm. He muttered something about MOSquitos. BTW the CS forum is fun and well worth checking out. Lot’s of new ideas and inspiration.

The one major problem that I found with following biodynamic gardening principles is sticking to the allotted days. There are four types of days – flower, leaf, root and fruit days. The flower days seem to be few and far between, compared to the leaf, root and fruit days. Consequently the flower days are really hard work – half of our garden is given over to growing flowers to sell.

I noticed that when I bucked the system the results were not so good. I couldn’t resist trying this!

This year I invested in Michael Gros’ book In Tune With The Moon 2011 . I like the format of this slim volume – it’s very clear. It also has lots of tips in the front section – including the best times for weeding, cutting your nails, hair and grass! It also has good, readable plans for growing a range of vegetables and flowers. Far less dry but probably not as intensive than Maria Thon’s annual tome.

I’m adding some permaculture practices to my gardening techniques this year. Sustainability is a key concept that underline both biodynamic and permaculture methods. I really want to decrease my dependence on having to invest money to keep the garden in premium health. Incidentally both practices claim to help the gardener spend less time working on the garden with optimum results.

Looking forward to a few sunny days on the swing seat with the Min Pins and a good book this summer!

  Leave a reply


  1. Ian Tremain

    Hi there, I too am setting out on a journey establishing a new garden and trying to use biodynamic principles. What days are best for sowing grass seeds? I need to reseed the lawn and couldn’t decide if I should use a flower day or a fruit day. Left uncut I suppose it would go to seed, but I’m really not sure which day is best. Any advice?
    Thanks Ian.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Ian

      I’d reseed on a leaf day as you want leaves – need to do some reseeding myself. I’m actually going to experiment and sow on a root day too as I want the grass to develop strong roots.

  2. Ruthdigs

    Have you tried Nicandra Physalodes? It’s supposed to have some deterrant to whitefly – I have some saved seeds I’m going to try this year if you’d like some posting? It’s pretty and prefers some shade.

  3. I have had great success with a spray made from boiled rhubarb leaves not much attacks them. One drop of detergent makes it good wetting agent. However it is apparently illegal as you are not allowed to make insecticide in your own home. Make what you will of that!!!!!!

  4. Margaret Thorson

    We use a lot of floating row covers or “Remay” to keep bugs off susceptible plants. But as for cabbage worms on things like kale as these crops are really best in the winter if you can just keep them alive until it gets cold they will go away.

  5. Hi Fiona, I would be really careful with the pyrethrum as it is toxic to bees

  6. Have tried gardening by moon phases and found it worked well. Difficult to practise it when you can only get to the allotment at the weekend though.

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